Redwood Jazz Alliance

Joe Lovano Us Five
Sunday, January 27, 8 p.m.| Van Duzer Auditorium, HSU
A co-presentation with Center Arts

 "Move over Pavarotti, the greatest Italian tenor around today isn't Luciano, but Lovano."
—Will Friedwald, The Village Voice

"One of the greatest musicians in jazz's history."
—Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

(For music and links, scroll to the bottom of this page)

Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth
Photo: Jimmy Katz

If the quotes above aren’t enough to convince you that this is a can’t-miss concert, consider this: filling the usually anonymous role of bassist in the band is Esperanza Spalding, the woman who beat out Justin Bieber for the Best New Artist Grammy a couple of years back, the woman who’s played at the Obama White House twice, the woman who is DownBeat magazine’s Jazz Musician of the Year for 2012, the woman who headlined her own CenterArts concert two years ago. Instead of touring exclusively with her own band, Spalding has chosen to spend considerable time in the past three years playing behind Joe Lovano.

Lovano was born in Cleveland in 1952, and began playing alto saxophone as a child. His father, tenor saxophonist Tony “Big T” Lovano, schooled his son not only in the basics, but in dynamics and interpretation, and regularly exposed him to live performances of international jazz artists such as Sonny Stitt, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Ammons, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

After graduation from high school Lovano attended the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston. His early professional gigs were as a sideman with organists Lonnie Smith and Brother Jack McDuff, and he did a formative three-year tour with the Woody Herman Thundering Herd. After leaving Herman’s band, Lovano settled in New York City, where he joined the Mel Lewis Orchestra for its regular Monday night gigs at the Village Vanguard, playing with the band from 1980 to 1992. 

Lovano has since worked and collaborated with many of the major players of the 20th century: Paul Motian, Hank Jones, John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Bobby Hutcherson, Billy Higgins, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Michel Petrucciani, Lee Konitz, Abbey Lincoln, Tom Harrell, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, Jim Hall, Bob Brookmeyer and many more. Nowadays, he's universally recognized as one those major names himself, and he's been a mainstay of the Blue Note label for over twenty years.

Lovano currently co-leads the "Sound Prints" quintet with trumpeter Dave Douglas, but since 2009, his main creative vehicle has been his own "Us Five," a band of younger players comprising (besides Spalding) pianist James Weidman and the drumming duo of Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III. Weidman has had long associations with Abbey Lincoln, Steve Coleman, Kevin Mahogany and Cassandra Wilson. Brown has worked with an extensive list of musicians (Robert Glasper, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, etc.) and has been Lovano’s drummer in a variety of groups since 1999. Mela emigrated to the U.S. in 2000 to attend the Berklee College of Music. Quickly realizing his extraordinary talent, Berklee promptly hired him to teach at the school. Mela is also the drummer in McCoy Tyner’s trio and has three albums under his own name.

Us Five and and its first two recordings have won all sorts of accolades and multiple awards, and its third disc, "Cross Culture," appeared earlier this month.

We've already sold our allocation of tickets at RJA prices, though regularly priced seats for this show may still be available through Center Arts at the HSU Ticket Office (click the link above or call 707-826-3928).

Because of a tight travel schedule, "Us Five" will not be holding an open public workshop.

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Additional support comes from Arcata Arts, The Koshkin Law Firm, Libation Wine Store and Wine Bar, Rustic West Trading Company, Threadbare Dancewear, and Tomo Japanese Restaurant.

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